Adventures in aloneness

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By Meaghan Downs

I linger now where I used to fear to tread — being alone.
Stepping out into the world by myself, even for a moment, can  be a dangerous endeavor.
They say we’re born into the world alone, and in the same way, we die alone.
But no one talks about the in between, or how we’re supposed to be alone in the midst of living.
My solo forays into the social wild are fleeting. You could even say they’re not risky at all.
A trip to the grocery store. The movies. A nice restaurant.
It’s like “Man v. Wild.” Or at least, what that particular survivalist reality TV show is supposed to portray.
It’s just you and the camera and the wilderness.
And of course, the millions of people captivated by your attempts to find civilization.
Now, it’s just me, myself and I. Only there’s no camera crew to followmy post-grad journey.
Before I moved to Kentucky, I never knew how to navigate through couples and families to my single movie theater seat.
Or how to gather up my courage when the lovechild of a giant Daddy Long Legs and a hairy millipede scuttled across my floor.
My parents thoughtfully gave me constant companions in my sisters.
My college shoved hundreds of my peers into one postage stamp of a campus, so we didn’t have a choice but to bond over our confusion and homesickness.
Without the white noise of family and friends to distract me, I have to learn about this new, adult person that I’m supposed to become.  And sometimes it can be hard to listen.
About this time last year, I lived in mortal fear of the “real world.”
Student loans. Groceries. This strange, alien thing called a 401(k).
I’ve transitioned into paying bills and rent, shutting off lights and clipping coupons.
It’s been a little more difficult, however, to be content with living alone. But I’ve come to terms with being a stranger in an unfamiliar land.
Now, I watch movies in happy silence. I kill my own bugs with the meditated grace of a crouching tiger, the girlish scream held back.
I’ve mastered the ability to be alone, with only my own thoughts and feelings.
Real living in the “real world” taught me that.
I just wish it could teach me how to install level bookshelves.